So you’re new to testing.
Let me give you some friendly advice to help you become the power tester you want to be. I’ll get the boot camp drill sergeant stuff out of the way first.
If you’re anything like the vast majority of new testers I’ve encountered, you’re full of questions. Probably a lot of questions that start with ‘what’s the best way to…‘ or ‘what is the best practice for…‘
Take that combination of words and remove it from your vocab. When I see questions like this, I cannot help but think that the person who asked it is incapable of free thought. That may not be the case, but those questions translate in my head as ‘Please spoonfeed me an answer so I don’t have to think. Please just tell me what to do. Give me a recipe that I can apply wholesale without consideration of any other factors whatsoever’.
Sounds fucking stupid, doesn’t it? Yes it does. Because it is.
Imagine if someone asked you ‘What’s the best way for solving conflict in the Middle East?’ That’s basically what’s happening. Hey, let me ask you for a simple answer to an incredibly complex question without giving you any context whatsoever as to how it applies to me.
Same thing goes for asking about pre-written test cases, answers to interview questions, what the best testing tool is. That’s sheer laziness. Don’t do it. You’ll see lots of other people doing it. Lots. If you do the same thing as everyone else, then you’re no different from anyone else. You’re a commodity and ultimately expendible.
Want to know how to distinguish yourself from the hordes of zombie testers out there? Don’t do what they do. Don’t be like them. If you want to be just another minimum-wage meatbot then fine, just find a different career.
If you want to be good at testing – hell, if you want to be even a competent tester, critical thinking is a skill you’re going to need to practice. I realize that might come as a shock if you thought testing is about following test cases (that’s not really testing btw, but that’s a discussion for another time). The habits you learned in grade school – memorization and subsequent regurgitation of the right answers – that’s not thinking. That stuff doesn’t work for testing.
Testing isn’t about pass or fail. It isn’t about getting the correct answer and turning it in to the teacher for a pat on the head. Testing is about asking questions about software and its artefacts and its people to find out information for the people that matter. It’s about maintaining your sense of uncertainty when everyone else is losing theirs. It’s about exploring issues of risk and the tradeoffs you make between making something better and the cost involved in doing so. It’s about seeing what’s in the gaps. What do people say they want? What do they actually want? What do they say they did? What did they actually do? What does this component connect to? What does it not connect to that it should (or vice versa) – are these the sorts of questions you ask when you test?
How do you know that a bug is a bug? (You might like to read up on oracles) How do you convince other people that a bug is a bug in a way that is tactful and persuasive? (You might like to read up on bug advocacy)
What else can you do to become an awesome tester? Want to know how other awesome testers do their testing? Do testing with them. Have you heard about Weekend Testing? (Yeah there are people who use their spare time to get better at testing, how crazy is that?) Even if you don’t decide to test with them, you can read the transcripts of the testing they did and their testing notes. You can learn from people of all sorts of experience levels.
There is no shortage of excellent testing blogs out there. There are ten times as many that are garbage, but if you’re here, then that’s a start. Any of the links in my blog roll and any of the links in theirs should have more than enough material to keep a new tester’s brain occupied for a very long time indeed.
Still reading? Well, if you haven’t been scared off yet then you might actually be serious about becoming a good tester. Read this stuff. Practice this stuff. Find anyone that knows software testing and learn from them – by which I mean question them. Don’t take anything that anyone tells you as gospel truth. Examine it. Turn it over. Poke holes in it. Good testers welcome challenge and criticism. It’s what helps them become better testers.
There are testers out there that will coach you. They’re good at it too. Contact them. Ask for their help, but understand that the onus is on you to do the hard work.
Becoming a skilled tester isn’t an easy path, but it is a very rewarding one. In the time I’ve been a tester, I’ve met amazing people from around the world and formed a network of peers I can go to when I have questions. I love the work that I do and I get to work with some amazing minds. I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities had I not made the choice to make myself the best tester I could be.
If you’re a new tester and you want to be a good tester, then you have work to do. Best get to it.
I’m writing a book on career guidance, CV writing and interviewing for software testers.
If you’re interested, please let me know
Here’s another post along similar lines. Well worth reading:
Becoming a World Class Tester – Ilari Henrik Aegerter